ORONO, Maine — Since the University of Maine’s 4-1 victory over the University of New Brunswick Tuesday night was just an exhibition game, it doesn’t count on either team’s record.
But the Black Bears exhibited a blueprint for future success with an impressive performance against a team that has won two Canadian national championships in the past three years and entered the game with an overall record of 29-1 including exhibition wins over Hockey East teams Massachusetts, Vermont and Providence.
Maine scored a pair of power-play goals in five chances after converting on just two of its previous 19 attempts in regular-season play and killed off all five UNB power-play chances after having allowed 10 power-play goals in the last 34 opportunities.
New Brunswick has averaged 5.3 goals and 38.3 shots on goal in its 19 Atlantic University Sport games, all victories, but was limited to 21 shots by the Black Bears.
Senior right wing David deKastrozza had a pair of goals for Maine, which was coming off Hockey East losses at Boston College (6-1) and Providence (3-2) over the weekend which snapped its nine-game unbeaten streak.
Sophomore left wing Brian Flynn and defenseman Will O’Neill had the other Maine goals while Kyle Bailey scored for New Brunswick.
Senior Dave Wilson made 20 saves while UNB’s Derek Yeomans made 12 saves and allowed three goals through two periods before Travis Fullerton played the third and made three saves on four shots.
New Brunswick played with great energy and finished checks all over the ice but the Bears were able to match the Varsity Reds’ speed and tenacity by playing sound positional hockey and getting their sticks and bodies in passing and shooting lanes.
“This was more than just an exhibition game for us. It was a big game,” said deKastrozza. “They’re definitely one of the better teams we’ve played. We took hits to make plays and gave out hits. It showed a lot about our team.”
“This was one of our better wins, if not the best win of the season,” said Flynn.
“The guys really picked it up,” said Wilson. “We played real well defensively. They cleared a lot of rebounds for me.”
UNB veteran defenseman Luke Gallant praised the Black Bears.
“They did a good job keeping us to the outside,” said Gallant. “They kept things simple. They chipped the puck out of the [defensive] zone. I think we had only one odd-man rush. And their goalie played well.”
UNB had the better of the chances in the first period but Flynn scored the only goal at the 3:41 mark off a well-executed three-on-two with linemates Tanner House and Gustav Nyquist.
House carried the puck down the middle before dishing to the right side to Nyquist who took a few strides before sliding it across to the unattended Flynn at the far post.
“It became a two-on-one down low and I was able to get enough on it,” said Flynn, who chipped it into the short-side corner past Yeomans.
Bailey, a fourth-round draft pick of the Minnesota Wild who was dangerous every time he touched the puck, tied it just 39 seconds into the middle period off a two-on-one.
The puck bounced over O’Neill’s stick at the blue line and Bailey carried it down the left wing side before snapping a 20-foot wrister over Wilson’s glove.
DeKastrozza gave Maine the lead for good at the 7:00 mark on the power play.
Josh Van Dyk’s shot from the point deflected off a skate in front over to deKastrozza, who was parked to Yeomans’ left.
“The puck landed right on my stick. Not even I could have screwed that one up,” said deKastrozza, who shoveled the puck into the half-empty net from the top of the crease.
O’Neill made it 3-1 on the power play 3:23 later.
“I took a shot that was blocked. But Gustav [Nyquist] passed it back to me and I threw it on net and the puck had eyes,” said O’Neill, whose wrister appeared to sneak through Yeomans’ five-hole.
Wilson made one of his best saves of the game late in the period off Gallant, who whistled a slapper from the midpoint off a Bretton Stamler pass only to see Wilson snare it with his glove two feet off the ice.
Maine did a thorough job protecting the lead in the third period although Wilson did have to make a few challenging stops including a gem off Stamler, who was set up nicely in the middle of the slot by Bailey. Wilson closed his pads to rob Stamler.
DeKastrozza iced it with 4:16 left when Spencer Abbott stole the puck and created a three-on-one before feeding a diagonal pass to deKastrozza for a rising one-timer from the left circle past Fullerton.
“This was a good win. They’re a great team,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead.
“We got to the net front tonight and did a good job protecting our net. I’m very pleased,” he added.
“They’re a fast team and they played well,” said UNB right wing Daine Todd.